A Tetrachromat’s Shades of Perception

Have you ever wondered how other people perceive colors? Or beauty? A colorblind person, for example, or the guy wearing inappropriate bright neon colors on a grey rainy day? Here is an artist with diagnosed super vision inviting you to understand her point of view. Concetta Antico explains in what way her perception is different from everybody else’s, what impact this has had on her bittersweet life and whether this genetic bonus makes beauty more accessible to her than to you…

I am a tetrachromat. This is, simply: ‘tetra’ meaning four, and ‘chroma’ meaning color. I possess four receptors in my eyes, one more than most people. You cannot develop tetrachromacy, or catch or learn it—it is a genetic mutation. My mother passed away when I was twelve, so nobody knows what she had, but my father has been confirmed to have a very rare form of blue/black color blindness. He undoubtedly had much to do with my gift.

The medical world calls it super vision. So my color space holds about 99 million colors more than those with regular vision.

What does this mean? Well, a green leaf is much more than hundreds of colors and shades of colors to me. Single items appear as a mini mosaic of colors. Light plays on objects for me and reveals edges of perhaps blue or green on a yellow flower; or lilac in an ocean; pink on what might seem to be a brown rock.

Nothing is as it seems to the normal vision in a tetrachromatic world. It makes everything more visually tantalizing. They say only 2% of the world’s population may have this gift. But it is not that one has the gift that matters—it is what the brain does with it, how much awareness it is used with. I told a scientist doing research on me, “Well, I guess I should donate my eyes to the Smithsonian when I go.” He said, “No, your brain.” I am told I am a highly functioning tetrachromat. I may well have the best and most expansive color vision in the entire world. Do note that this vision is only active when viewing anything divinely created, not anything man-made.

Artificial items do not posses the depth of color of the universe. There is so much color in the sky, the rain, the soil… in nature I see MANY colors in one thing. On the other hand, in supermarkets for example, I see many colors at one time. And altogether those are crap colors! Not beautiful and subtle—they are overwhelming, busy, bright, flat color; not beautiful and natural. Also, the tube colors I buy are nowhere near the variances that exist. But since I am able to mix the artificial paint colors, I can create the colors I see.

People without tetrachromacy can be trained to see many of the colors I do. Vision is enhanced by use. Regular vision can conceivably see up to one million colors—but most people never will—unless they come take a painting class from me, or study color theory. My students learn to disseminate a LOT more colors, because they train their capacity to ‘see’.

The diagnosis that I am one of the very few people in the world with tetrachromacy gives me a platform from which I can tell people about the causes I am passionate about. Science offers people a reason to listen to my quests. This makes it is easier for me to fight for art education and color vision testing for all children, the importance of beauty in our world, the appreciation of soul living—all of which will lead to the downfall of consumerism. The realization of my goals will lead to an end to what I like to call the ‘gimmies’ of so much of today’s culture, and be the much-needed backlash to too much technology. I will prove my point internationally, for the understanding of all, and the betterment of mankind. I want to be a visionary who opens the eyes of others. I feel I am able to inspire people with my nature, my viewpoint, and my color sense. People are intrigued with what I am able to see and often when a color is pointed out, they can see it too!

I have taught over 12 000 folks, and let me tell you, many walk around with bags over their heads and their hearts. Many choose to be soulfully blind, and are trapped in inauthentic and empty lives. They cannot embrace what is innately good. Why is this?

Their channels are blocked. Perhaps as children, the channels were clogged and stifled with the poison of bad parenting or modern civilization, and their souls fled and could no longer be found.

Being soulful requires attention to life, and it requires internalizing the beauty everywhere. To be soulful you must be awake and receptive. You must be love. You must LOOK. And appreciate the abundant gifts we have at our feet. We must acknowledge what is here, what has been, and what will become, in order to hold our souls in our bodies.

After my mother’s death, my home was not my home any more. Hence, at sixteen, I hit the streets and skipped all the way with the freedom I had under my steps. Three dollars and nowhere to go was far more joyful than the situation I had left. I soon found that all the help I needed was inside of me, and I survived on the streets. My mother had left me strong and well cared-for, so I knew what side was up early on, and I knew what it was like to be cherished. When she died, my sixth grade teacher wrote me a personal letter. One line carried me through: “Now more than ever do you need to have faith in yourself, Concetta.” So I clung onto those words, reading her letter over and over for decades, and I survived. Never underestimate the power your words can have to heal someone, and never underestimate yourself.

Days were dark and hard often, but my zest for life, my mother’s wisdom, and the desire to make something of my life was the powerful force that drove me.

Difficult? You bet. Cry? A lot. Despair? Yes, but not enough to want to vanquish myself and miss the next sunrise.

Life is hard for many. Harder for some. It was for me. But the truth is what doesn’t kill you, does in fact drive you forward. Makes you iron-clad determined. I have seen the place that can do you in. The place that chews you and if you let it, it will eat you. So you have to know how to rise again, phoenix-style, and brave it all for the pure joy of living and seeing the sun rise each day. In the end, there is an old saying that you cannot appreciate the wonderful without having experienced the terrible. I declare I have appreciated it all.

If everybody were a tetrachromat, the world would look like a dream! Beyond beautiful. Rich and vibrant. More would have the desire, I believe, to preserve and conserve the beauty of our world. More people might be artists and the world would have a greater appreciation of art, artists, and creativity. It would be more blissful. More paintings would hang, more gardens would grow, there would be more color on every corner. The world would be happier, I believe, and I speak from experience…

Yes, beauty speaks to me, everywhere. I live in super-hued heaven. The infinite colors of our world are eye candy, and captivating even in the shadows where many may unfortunately never look.

Still, I do not believe that a fourth receptor or more colors are the secret to perceiving beauty, per se. Truly, if you are ‘looking’, beauty reveals herself. Being colorblind means you see less color, not less beauty. Beauty comes in many forms, some based in color; but other beauty can be found in love or truth. Remember what Keats told us:

“‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ —that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Whether the truth of the eye, color, the heart, the beauty or the mind; it is awareness that inspires us to greatness.

The thought makes me want to sing it, Beatles-style… “Try to see it my way…”

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